The ubiquitously found beta-amino acid taurine has several physiological functions, e.g. in bile acid formation, as an osmolyte by cell volume regulation, in the heart, in the retina, in the formation of N-chlorotaurine by reaction with hypochlorous acid in leucocytes, and possibly for intracellular scavenging of carbonyl groups. Some animals, such as the cat and the C57BL/6 mouse, have disturbances in taurine homeostasis. The C57BL/6 mouse strain is widely used in diabetic and atherosclerotic animal models. In diabetes, the high extracellular levels of glucose disturb the cellular osmoregulation and sorbitol is formed intracellularly due to the intracellular polyol pathway, which is suspected to be one of the key processes in the development of diabetic late complications and associated cellular dysfunctions. Intracellular accumulation of sorbitol is most likely to cause depletion of other intracellular compounds including osmolytes such as myo-inositol and taurine. When considering the clinical complications in diabetes, several links can be established between altered taurine metabolism and the development of cellular dysfunctions in diabetes which cause the clinical complications observed in diabetes, e.g. retinopathy, neuropathy, nephropathy, cardiomyopathy, platelet aggregation, endothelial dysfunction and atherosclerosis. Possible therapeutic perspectives could be a supplementation with taurine and other osmolytes and low-molecular compounds, perhaps in a combinational therapy with aldose reductase inhibitors.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.